A shocking trend of gang-related shootings plagued New Orleans following the hurricane infamous for destroying much of the city’s infrastructure. As national news media was reporting exaggerated claims of street-level violence occurring in understocked refuge centers, heavily armed and trained mobs were targeting and killings innocent civilians. Following the attempted murder of Donnel Herrington and the murder of Henry Glover on September 2, 2005, Danny Brumfield was killed with a shotgun blast to the back on September 3 near the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. The Danziger bridge shootings were perpetrated on September 4, resulting in the deaths of James Brissette and Ronald Madison, with four other victims suffering injury in the attack. Who was responsible for these mob killings?
It would be years before a critical inquiry into the senseless killings would occur, primarily sparked by intrigued journalists and eventually followed up by the United States department of justice through the federal bureau of investigation. Potentially more disturbing than what is known is what is not known. With reports of bodies being spotted throughout the city that appeared to be victims of gunshot wounds rather than storm-related injuries, there is no way to know exactly how many homicides occurred during the post-storm havoc. Survivors have cited numerous bodies buried beneath debris showing gunshot wounds in Algiers Point, an area which was not flooded after the rupture of the levees. In various journalistic reports, drunken neighbors in largely wealthy, european-american residential areas admit to operating armed patrols and firing on people who, “didn’t belong.” Donnel Herrington was targeted, though fortunately survived the attack on himself and his friends who were accompanying him on September 1. After the state of affairs in the city began returning to normal and he regained his health, Donnel checked with police authorities on the status of the investigation into what had happened to him. He was shocked to discover that not only had there been no official reports of the attack on himself (as is usually standard in the case of a gunshot wound treated in a hospital) but police were also completely uninterested in taking a report or performing any investigation after the fact. It seemed the official attitude towards violence after Katrina was to consider everything over with and forgotten.
Less fortunate were the victims of police violence in the days following the storm. Daniel Brumfield was hit by a police cruiser on September 3, blasted with a shotgun, and left to die in the street outside of the Morial Convention Center. Dozens of witnesses observed the reckless disregard of his killer, Ronald Mitchell, who would lie in a report about Brumfield’s actions as well as his own following the shooting, falsely reporting having stopped to provide aid which was never provided. The homicide detective who cleared the shooting as justified, DeCynda Barnes, was caught in a lie after it was revealed that she never even reviewed the autopsy report before signing off on the case. With such systemic failure to a criminal level to provide accountability for Brumfield’s death, it would still be only the trigger-man who was convicted of a crime related to the killing, and the charges were not murder or even manslaughter, but perjury committed during the civil suit filed by Brumfield’s family. For that, Ronald Mitchell was sentenced to twenty months in prison.
Henry Glover was walking in Algiers on September 2 when he was hit with a round in the chest from an assault rifle fired by NOPD employee David Warren, who was mounted on a balcony in the rear of a strip mall. Though Warren claims Glover may have been armed, there was no evidence to support either hostility or the means to commit harm by Glover, and the shooting confused Warren’s partner, who still delayed any report of the unjustified killing until a federal investigation years later. Though elements within the NOPD denied a coordinated cover-up, police employee Gregory Macrae would beat Glover’s rescuers, steal their vehicle, and fire rounds from his service weapon into Glover’s corpse before setting the vehicle and the body ablaze with an accelerant and leaving it parked atop a levee. Dwayne Scheuermann (who has since retired and comments about gruesome aspects of the incident online) provided Macrae transport from the site of the body disposal to the nearby police station. Though a federal jury convicted Warren, the initial shooter, and Macrae, the officer who took it upon himself to conceal the crime, the guilty findings would be thrown out on a technicality.
Keyallah Bell, an NOPD officer who had knowledge of Warren’s shooting of Glover, along with Glover’s partner on the day and witness to the incident Linda Howard, had informed sergeant Lesia Mims about the incident and their knowledge of it, but for some reason it wasn’t until a more thorough investigation by the FBI that Mims relayed that she’d received reports from Bell and Howard. The two lower-ranking female officers both reported experiencing nightmares and feeling “very disturbed” by what they knew had happened. Mims was reportedly under internal review in 2012 for not sharing the information, and was eventually cleared for the withholding in February 2013, after a ten month investigation. Two Lieutenants, Robert Italiano and Travis McCabe, faced federal indictments for filing fabricated reports relative to the shooting and destruction of evidence related to Henry Glover’s death. McCabe would eventually be convicted by a jury of fabricating reports, and was looking to be reinstated with the New Orleans police while awaiting a retrial.
The most publicized case of reckless use of deadly force by New Orleans police employees in the aftermath of Katrina was the Danziger bridge shootings, which left two people dead and four seriously injured. Refugees from the storm were attempting to cross the Danziger bridge on September 4 when unidentified individuals in plain clothes began opening fire on them for seemingly no reason. Numerous other officers participated in an attempted cover-up of that crime, agreeing to plant a firearm at the scene and fabricate witness statements of individuals who did not exist. There was even an attempt made to frame a bystander with shooting at police, to direct the attention of the violence at someone, anyone who was not wearing a badge. Fortunately, Lance Madison was exonerated of the false charges levelled against him. Despite a federal investigation and trial years later, those convictions would also be dismissed on technicalities. At the trials of the dishonest, murderous police, other police employees lined the streets outside of the court, clapping, chanting, and cheering for their colleagues in a disturbing show of solidarity with their criminal comrades. The corrupt system even entitles the killer cops to still receive their full pensions.
While receiving due process of law and a fair trial is important, the technicalities upon which Henry Glover’s killers and the Danziger bridge killers were released did not call into question their culpability in the acts or taint any of the evidence against them. It was perhaps an intentional tossing of the case provided by the prosecution to the police, whom they often rely upon to assist in the prosecution of civilians. In the end, the system failed to protect the innocent and functioned perhaps as it is exactly intended to, protecting fellow agents of the system against the unprivileged masses.
For more, see the video produced regarding these incidents for the 2013 Police Accountability Tour NOLA Killer Police Enjoy Macabre Support System
More from the tour can be found at copblock.org/tour
UPDATE 12/01/2013: On November 29, nola.com posted that the retrial of David Warren, previously convicted in relation to the death of Henry Glover, will begin on Monday, December 2. There is no word on the scheduling for other overturned conviction retrials in the Henry Glover case or the Danziger bridge shootings.